Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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It's 7:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. The smell of fresh coffee fills the air. The lines are long and the customers are abuzz about the day's activities. No, this isn't the local coffee shop. It's New Life Academy's student-run coffee shop. "All of our classmates support us so well," said NLA junior Olivia Tourek, who works at the coffee shop. "We know all of their special drinks now." The NLA coffee shop, open every Wednesday before school, serves everything from plain coffee to hot chocolate to mochas to tea to lattes. "The turtle mochas are the worst," Tourek said.
Woodbury resident Apoorva Kanneganti said she didn't connect to the stories of her Indian heritage and culture until age 10, when she was introduced to a form of classical Indian dance. Kanneganti, a 2010 Minnesota Math and Science Academy graduate, made the connections through the bharatanatyam dance. "Dance is a different way to connect to those stories," she said. After dancing for eight years, Kanneganti will perform her arangetram, or debut, on June 4 at the St. Paul Student Center. Kanneganti has spent years preparing for her arangetram.
Two Woodbury teachers were each presented with $7,500 checks Thursday, May 26, by representatives from both CenturyLink/Qwest and Minnesota Business Partnership. East Ridge High School science teacher Kathleen Ollerich and Woodbury Middle School math teacher Louise Hinz each received a $7,500 Teachers and Technology grant to help bring technology into their classrooms. Ollerich and Hinz are two of 100 teachers in the country to receive the grants. "These are two amazingly innovative teachers," said CenturyLink/Qwest president Duane Ring.
A public service announcement produced by students at Stillwater Area High School, and featuring Woodbury and East Ridge high school students, has won first place in the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and AAA Auto Club Don't Drive Distracted video contest. "The kids are super excited," said SAHS teacher Debbie Drew, who oversaw production. "Everybody worked so hard and it was nice to end with a bang." The winners were announced May 26. Voting lasted from May 10 through May 24 for the 10 finalists.
The 2008 Comprehensive Plan was once again on the table during the May 17 meeting of Afton City Council. Even though the Metropolitan Council accepted the comp plan earlier this month, City Council discussed it during last Tuesday's meeting since Afton Planning Commission made several changes to the document. "We encourage you to accept these revisions," Planning Commission Chairwoman Barb Ronningen said. A city's comp plan represents its vision of how the community should grow and how it will develop or redevelop.
Becoming a teacher just kind of fell into the lap of Woodbury High School science teacher Nancy Remakel. "I graduated in the 1970s so women basically did one of three things: became a secretary, became a homemaker or became a teacher," she said. "Teaching high school science is just sort of where I ended up." But, Remakel is quick to point out that even though teaching may have just fallen in teaching, she wouldn't change it for the world.
Art enthusiasts were out in full force last weekend for the annual Afton Area Business Association-sponsored May Fair. The two-day art festival took place in Afton's Town Square Park. Despite wet conditions, and even a tornado threat, nearly 1,000 people turned out to browse the roughly 60 art vendors, event organizer Deb Larson said.
For many people, the war in Afghanistan is a world away. But for others it reaches closer to home. The war became a little more real for Royal Oaks Elementary third graders earlier this month when they made a connection with an army troop in Afghanistan. Anna Mueller, a student in Jill Brown's art class, had drawn a picture for her uncle who was serving overseas and it was her father who then approached Brown about possibly having the students draw pictures for all of the soldiers. "Apparently all the guys in the unit were giving him a hard time," Brown said of Anna's uncle.
Everyone's seen them: the whimsical Google logos found on the search-engine's homepage. Two Woodbury middle school students recently got the chance to try their hand at designing the logo. Grace Chandler, a seventh grader at Lake Middle School, and Rachel Henning, an eighth grader at the Minnesota Math and Science Academy, were named the two state finalists in the Doodle 4 Google contest. Doodle 4 Google is a competition where kindergarten through 12th-grade students to use their artistic talents to redesign Google's homepage.
It's art festival season again and Afton is gearing up for the first one of the year that celebrates spring -- May Fair. Afton May Fair, sponsored by the Afton Area Business Association, will be May 21 and May 22 in Town Square Park. "It should be another fun event," said Kathy Jarvis, a member of the Afton Area Business Association. Last year's event, which suffered from a lot of rain, drew between 4,000 and 5,000 people. "We could easily double that if we had good weather," said Deb Larson, of the Afton Area Business Association.